Posted by: A Part of the Solution | June 18, 2012

Pasture Farrowing

In the last ten days or so, Willow and Fern have both farrowed out in our woodland pastures. The weather’s been perfect for giving birth out in nature. And our girls had both farrowed successfully before under extremely challenging weather conditions. The farrowing pasture laid out for Willow and Fern wasn’t large, but situated in such a way that it could easily be doubled as the piglets grow. And the size of the farrowing pasture would be more of a concern if Willow and Fern were sharing it as planned.

But Fern had her own ideas, and was indeed about ten days behind Willow in her pregnancy. On the day, Willow lumbered willingly enough to her fresh pasture. She tarried only for a little rooting and grazing. Fern had none of it. On two successive days, she refused to go anywhere near the farrowing pasture where Willow was well settled in. So we left Fern sharing her old spot with Bo(cephus) and planned to try to move her somewhere separate closer to her time, when her hormones would encourage her to make a separate nest from her pasture-mate.

On June 7th, right on the projected schedule, Willow brought 17 piglets into the world. Her first uterus was emptied in about 3 hours. We saw her begin the process of farrowing the second uterus, but she seems to have finished late in the night (while we were at a bonfire in the back field). Only one of the piglets was stillborn, and only one trodden upon during the first night. Sadly, another three were lost over the next four days. Some blame the distance from the home acres to the pastures for this level of attrition. I have opined that a sow with only twelve teats isn’t very probably going to be able to raise fifteen healthy piglets.

Meanwhile, Fern grew larger and more visibly gravid day by day. But our WWOOFing staff had dropped from its astounding, yet productive, level of nine pairs of helping hands down to four and five only. If the tomatoes don’t get into the ground substantially before the solstice, you just don’t get good tomatoes. Tomatoes took precedence over walking Fern to the vacant pasture we’d prepped.

On the morning of the 17th, we ran out of time. Fern began delivering shortly before the breakfast truck rumbled down the lane laden with buckets of food and water and the full WWOOFing crew. One of the volunteers phoned back to the house to let us know Fern was farrowing actively. She produced seven piglets from her first uterus and six from her second. One of those failed at birth–some piglets don’t seem to catch on to breathing.

Last night, we lost two of Fern’s litter. When it’s the least bit cool or damp out, the piglets burrow into the  straw to get out of the drafts. They may have been undetectable to Fern as she maneuvered for a comfy spot in the hut (she’s always been fussy about where she sleeps). I’m still of the mind that an accident like Fern’s might as easily have happened in the barn as in the pastures.

Bo has been sleeping out under the trees, well away from the farrowing den. The once he wandered over to inspect Fern’s feed bowl for treats, she got into a bellowing match with him which resulted in his lumbering some yards off to sulk in a mud hole. I don’t imagine he’ll be tempted over to the den very often.

We’re on stand-by for Juniper and Strawberry.  They’re cozy in the barn, conditioned to being spoiled and having endless tummy rubs. And we already have 22 piglets running around in the woodland pastures. This is Pigdemonium in the making!



  1. BOTH of them have two uteruses?

    • ALL female pigs have two uteri. It’s a swine thing. We don’t have to understand.

      • Holy crap. Never knew that.

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